Alphabet's Verily is building a tool to help people find coronavirus tests

Announcements by President Trump and Google's parent company cause confusion about the government's testing efforts.

Richard Nieva Former senior reporter
Richard Nieva was a senior reporter for CNET News, focusing on Google and Yahoo. He previously worked for PandoDaily and Fortune Magazine, and his writing has appeared in The New York Times, on CNNMoney.com and on CJR.org.
Richard Nieva
2 min read

The White House announced a new coronavirus screening website.


Google on Friday said its sister company Verily is working with the federal government to build a tool to help people find coronavirus testing. 

Verily, the life sciences arm of Google parent company Alphabet, said the tool will first be introduced in the San Francisco Bay Area, where Google is based. 

"We are developing a tool to help triage individuals for Covid-19 testing. Verily is in the early stages of development, and planning to roll testing out in the Bay Area, with the hope of expanding more broadly over time," Google tweeted. "We appreciate the support of government officials and industry partners and thank the Google engineers who have volunteered to be part of this effort."

The announcement came an hour after President Donald Trump said Google is working with the White House and private sector partners on a website to give people information about coronavirus testing. Trump unveiled the project during an address at the White House, where he declared a national state of emergency over the COVID-19 pandemic.

The announcements by both Google and Trump caused major confusion about the specific details of the efforts, and whether they're related. Google didn't respond to multiple requests to clarify.

Google sought to clear up the matter late Saturday with a tweet confirming its "partnering with the US Government in developing a nationwide website that includes information about COVID-19 symptoms, risk and testing information."

The website described by the White House would let people fill out a questionnaire where they could describe symptoms and receive information about drive-through testing and how to get results, Deborah Birx, the White House's coronavirus response coordinator, said at the address. Trump said in his address that up to half a million additional tests are expected to be available early next week, and drive-through test facilities will be opened at critical locations. 

"Google has 1,700 engineers working on this right now; they've made tremendous progress," Trump said.

Internally, Google described a project that sounds smaller in scale, according to a report Friday by The Verge. The project will direct people to a website for Verily's Baseline, an initiative to advance clinical research. The website was initially supposed to be available only to health care workers, but since Trump's announcement, it'll be open to the general public, Verily told The Verge.

The effort comes as the coronavirus pandemic has severely impacted everyday life across the globe. At Google and Alphabet, all North American employees have been asked to work from home, and the company canceled its annual Google I/O developer conference. The confab, which had been scheduled for May, is Google's biggest event of the year. 

As of Thursday, more than 1,600 cases of coronavirus and 41 deaths had been reported in the US, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Originally published March 13, 1:21 p.m. PT.
Update, 5:11 p.m.:
Adds information after Verily's announcement.

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